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    Tuesday, August 29, 2017

    Trump Uses Harvey To Dump Damaging New Contacts With Russia

    Hurricane Harvey may be devastating coastal Texas, but it is certainly covering a multitude of sins for Donald Trump. There was the outrageous pardon of Joe Arpaio, followed by the ban on any new transgender service members. But the disaster in Houston has also provided cover for the release of pretty devastating emails showing that Trump was negotiating with Putin and the Russians to get a Trump Tower in Moscow built even as he was running for President. And it shows that even more Trump associates were in contact with the Russians during the campaign.

    These emails show that another Trump Organization fixer, Felix Sater, promised to use his extensive Russian connections to help broker the Moscow tower deal and wrote in an email, "Our boy [Trump] can become president of the USA and we can engineer it. I will get all of Putins team to buy in on this, I will manage this process." Michael Cohen, the lawyer for the Trump Organization and a Trump campaign adviser, personally lobbied Putin's personal spokesman in order to help move the project forward when it stalled in January, 2016. In addition, Trump himself signed a letter of intent for the project in 2015.

    Of course, all this just adds to the Trump lies about not having any contacts with Russian and again helps partly explain his fondness for Putin. Trump had been using his buildings to launder Russian money for around a decade and keeping Putin happy was all part of the long-term business plan. As I wrote back in April of last year, Trump's campaign was initially designed as just a branding exercise to help him expand his business.

    All these details and emails were almost surely leaked by Trump's legal team. In addition, they probably also leaked the fact that Mueller is looking into how the original statement regarding Don Jr.'s meeting with the Russians was drafted. This is all an attempt to get the damaging information out there but under the cover of a larger story that will dominate the news. More importantly, the leaks were probably designed to present the damaging information in the best possible light, which makes you really wonder how bad they will look in the correct context. It is also probably no coincidence that Dana Rohrbacher is out there today pushing the story that the DNC hack was actually an "inside job".

    Beyond that, it is also interesting to see these emails and reflect back on the 2016 campaign in light of these new details. Remember that the Russians were already under sanctions because of the invasion of Ukraine and the taking of Crimea. It seems hard to believe that our intelligence services would not be aware that Trump had signed a letter of intent on the Moscow Tower. That building would have to involve at least some of Putin's oligarch cronies that would have been under sanction. Instead, we spent all of the time talking about Hillary's emails. It make you wonder what James Comey was actually doing.

    UPDATE: Apparently Trump's letter of intent was with a group using sanctioned Russian banks. Makes you wonder how the media and the FBI didn't pick up on this during the campaign... 

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